images-2.jpg

Obama, Writing Off White Workers, Or A Lament for the Democratic Party

Catching up on my reading, I just now came across this piece, “The Future of the Obama Coalition,” on the website of the New York Times.  The author, Thomas Edsall, spent 25 years covering politics for the Washington Post before taking his current position as a journalism professor at Columbia.  If I had to make a wager, I’d bet a lot that Edsall is as liberal as any other product of Washington, D.C. newsrooms.  But I’ve met Edsall a few times, and in conversation, as in his large body of work, he strikes me as thoroughly fair-minded.

Which makes his piece today all the more arresting.  An excerpt:

For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.images.jpg

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.images-3.jpg

The New Class plus poor people of color.

Everybody deserves representation, of course, and who knows? That coalition may indeed put Obama over the top.  

But the Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey–the party that prided itself on championing the ordinary working American–has utterly vanished.

  1. Stuart Creque

    What do the two wings of this new Democrat coalition have in common? Hostility to the engine of economic growth. Edsall points out that the poor minority wing depends largely on public assistance, while the affluent educated wing puts a priority on environmental protection and non-commercial pursuits over economic interests. Thus both wings are more interested in killing the golden goose than in breeding a flock of golden geese. This is the fault line in the Edsell model: the party that addresses the aspirations of the white working class will attract support from those in the minority working class who want the same economic opportunities as their white counterparts as opposed to meager handouts.

  2. Stuart Creque

    John Marzan: unions aren’t white working class anymore. Unionized government employees outnumber unionized private sector employees nowadays, and minorities are well-represented in union membership, possibly over-represented. The Democrats’ union-coddling is now a liability, not a benefit, in their appeal to the white working class.

  3. Joseph Eagar
    Kowaliczko Tom:  You have to give this Edsall fellow some credit for coming out and stating the obvious, even if it’s at least 12 years late.

    For all the infighting/discussions we have on the right, I still maintain that it’s basically about values.

    On the left, interest groups – not values.

    I’m not sure.  Our model is more sustainable intellectually, but the Democrats’ method has the advantage of appealing to basic human laziness.  In some ways, a corporatist (special interest-based) system is much easier to govern than a limited-government principles-based one.

    Of course, we have an offsetting advantage known as the federal government.  It’s ridiculous, even for corporatists, for the federal government to be this large.  That helps a bit.

  4. Grantman

    But the Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey–the party that prided itself on championing the ordinary working American–has utterly vanished.

    And that’s the Democratic Party that I used to be so proud of.  When I try to tell liberal friends that that party has long vanished, they simply do not believe it, nor can they see it.  While I was late in opening my eyes to this fact, maybe eight years ago, it becomes ever more clearer on a daily basis.  

    A sad state today.

  5. raycon and lindacon

    That Democrat party of the working man vanished some time ago, to some extent starting in the 60s.  Political pretense is a powerful vale, especially when it is composed of the media, from whom most citizens naively seek the truth.

    At least the pretense is over.  Did the Vale split from top to bottom?

  6. KC Mulville

    What do all those people have in common? They do not have to be persuaded. No appeal to reason is required, or even expected. The mythical image of a voter weighing issues is now an anachronism. It’s all about payoffs and what Obama can offer them.

    But this works to our favor.

    If they want to calculate cold interests, then let’s press the cold question … what exactly do you think you’re going to get out of Obama in the next four years? 

    • Maybe these groups are hoping that they can wrest control of the House and Senate, and then a Periclean Age will appear. 

    • That’s a pipe dream, but all we have to do is remind them that Obama already had that leverage … and did nothing with it. How’s that card check legislation coming along? 

    I mean, if you want to be brutally selfish, fine. Just calculate what you’re likely to get out of Obama in the next four years.

    Go ahead. Be selfish. Calculate your most selfish interests. Please!  

  7. Douglas

    And THIS is why liberals want amnesty for illegal aliens so badly, and why Republicans that support such policies are idiots. Amensty for millions of illegal aliens = instant Democrat voters.

  8. WI Con

     You have to give this Edsall fellow some credit for coming out and stating the obvious, even if it’s at least 12 years late.

    For all the infighting/discussions we have on the right, I still maintain that it’s basically about values.

    On the left, interest groups – not values.

    I think we have the more enduring coalition.

  9. Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    But it’s also well to remember that Democrats’ history as the defenders of white working-class (male) workers was hardly innocent.

    For instance, driving non-white, non-male workers out of the workplace was a stated goal of many who advocated for the institution of minimum wage laws and the like. Advocacy for closed shops was often based on the same thing. And it wasn’t for no reason that Roosevelt’s NRA (National Recovery Act) garnered the nickname “Negro Run-Around”.

    What’s even sadder is that when the Democrat party broke with its racist history in order to shower poor minorities with misguided “compassion”, it left them even worse off than before.

  10. Flagg Taylor

    This is good news for the GOP I think, if indeed this makes it easier for the GOP to attract these voters.  But Henry Olson has chronicled the Republicans’ shaky recent track record with these voters here and here.

  11. flownover

    Apparatchiks , multi-striped wannabes , and pay to plays ? This is a party — no , but we need to answer that before we puzzle the right back together again .

  12. Scott R

     Ironically I just finished an article in TWS by Henry Olsen lamenting that the Republicans are losing the white working class. I’d lean toward Edsall, but it’s no slam dunk.

    Also, that “poor people of color” group could be more fragile than Dems think, since AfAms and Hispanics are, cynically speaking, competitors in some sense. Some smart Republican rhetoric on immigration and immigrant values – and Rubio as VP – could split the coalition. 

  13. Kofola

    Peter, the Democrats haven’t effectively been the party of white workers on the national level since the New Left destroyed the New Deal coalition in the 1972 primaries.

    This is in large part why in presidential politics today the South and non-coastal west are solidly Republican and why the Midwest consists almost entirely of swing states.

  14. Lady Bertrum

     Most of the members of the new class fall into one of two categories. Either they’re part of a profession that relies on government funding or subsidies in one form or another (academics, teachers, the helping class of pseudo professionals), or they’re part of the “creative” class responsible for telling truth to power (insert eye-roll here). I used the scare quotes around creative because, let’s face it, what passes for the creative arts in post-modern America is complete sh*t. actually, to call it sh*t is an insult to fecal matter. The liberal creative class is exhausted, sanctimonious and tiresome. All you need to do to confirm this is have a look at the movies released this past year, 90% of which was sad derivative garbage.

    The OWS kids seem to be some sad sort of aspirational new class members who are trying to re-create the ’68 vibe but failing miserably. They want to be both of the creative class and fight the MAN blah, blah, blah, yet they still yearn for tenure and the safety of gubnit work.

  15. Percival
    Kowaliczko Tom:  For all the infighting/discussions we have on the right, I still maintain that it’s basically about values.

    On the left, interest groups – not values.

    I think we have the more enduring coalition. · Nov 28 at 6:31pm

    Oh, they have values; by their lights, that is.  To us, it all looks like fru-fru P.C. PoMo multiculti sludge, but that is only because it actually is fru-fru P.C. PoMo multiculti sludge.  Once upon a time, when that stuff came into contact with reality, it disintegrated.  So, they’ve declared war on reality.  Critical thinking is verboten.

    “We can pay for all this government largess because…hey look — a unicorn!”

    They have taken over the schools and the media, and they’ll hammer home their “values” until they are coming out of the ears of the majority.

    This concludes my jeremiad for the evening.  Somebody talk me down.

  16. HVTs
    Percival

    Oh, they have values; by their lights, that is.  To us, it all looks like fru-fru P.C. PoMo multiculti sludge, but that is only because it actually is fru-fru P.C. PoMo multiculti sludge.  Once upon a time, when that stuff came into contact with reality, it disintegrated.  So, they’ve declared war on reality.  Critical thinking is verboten.

    “We can pay for all this government largess because…hey look — a unicorn!”

    They have taken over the schools and the media, and they’ll hammer home their “values” until they are coming out of the ears of the majority.

    This concludes my jeremiad for the evening.  Somebody talk me down.

    On the contrary, carry on!  [:-)  But, no doubt revealing how utterly un-hip I am, I have to ask: “PoMo”?  Go ahead, embarrass me with something that’s utterly obvious … I learned long ago that it’s amazing what you can learn if unafraid to reveal your ignorance.

  17. Anon

    But, wasn’t this coalescence of the dependent classes, all disparate yet all necessarily political allies, inevitable?

    Where’s the surprise?

  18. John Marzan
    Peter Robinson

     

    All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.

    don’t forget labor unions who are white working class.

  19. HVTs

    From the referenced article:

    “According to recent data from the Department of Agriculture, 45.8 million people, nearly 15 percent of the population, depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to meet their needs for food.”

    I don’t mean to drag us off the point here, but I cannot help myself: how many of those nearly 46 million people have (or are minors whose parents have) a cell phone? An iPod or MP3 player?  Smoke cigarettes? Drink alcohol?  Own some form of personal motorized transport?  I suspect it’s rather a high percentage.  When we throw around words like “depend on” I think it’s often more accurate to say “are taking advantage of.”

  20. Terry Mott
    HVTs

    On the contrary, carry on!  [:-)  But, no doubt revealing how utterly un-hip I am, I have to ask: “PoMo”?  Go ahead, embarrass me with something that’s utterly obvious … I learned long ago that it’s amazing what you can learn if unafraid to reveal your ignorance. · Nov 28 at 7:36pm

    Post-Modern

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In